Touchdown Cafe, a longtime mainstay of the South University Avenue bar scene, has undergone an overhaul and name change, reopening late last month as an Irish-themed pub named The Blue Leprechaun.
Though the Blue Leprechaun is co-owned by one of Touchdown Cafe’s former owners and occupies the same space, General Manager Scott Meinke said it hasn’t inherited any of the former tenant’s troubles with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. Most recently, the bar was forced shut down for five days and pay a $1,600 fine last November for hosting beer pong tournaments.
Meinke, who also worked at Touchdown Cafe, said he’s excited about the new concept. “It’s been great so far,” he said.
The bar isn’t catering to any demographic in particular, Meinke said, and since its inception on Aug. 20, he’s seen a wide variety of patrons. “We’ve definitely had the older crowd, a lot of the alumni, and also some students,” he said, calling it a “happy mix of both.”
“I basically see it as a bigger, classier version of the Jug,” said Kristin Vedder, one of the Blue Leprechaun’s bartenders, who is also a waitress at the Brown Jug.
Renovations to transform the space from a sports bar to an Irish-style pub began in May, and the difference is clear. The room now feels more like a dinner spot than a dance club, and features wooden tables and chairs, a fireplace and a handcrafted bar — no longer in the center of the room.
The menu includes American staples like chicken fingers and Caesar salads, but Meinke said comfort food like Shepherd’s Pie and Irish Stew have been fan favorites.
“The American twists on Irish cuisine have been very popular,” he said.
Though Vedder said that Friday night “was pretty crazy,” the bar has seemed relatively empty so far. About five patrons were in the pub at lunchtime one day last week. From about 10 p.m. to midnight one night last week, while other area bars were practically full, the Blue Leprechaun had two tables of friends and several students sitting at the bar watching the Yankees game.
But of those there, most said they thought the new bar would fare well among the student set.
“I think it’s much better than Touchdown’s was — it’s a nice environment,” second-year Ross School of Business Graduate student Jessica Goldberg said, who was hanging out in the basement for a Ross School of Business social event.
When asked if she knows other students who go to the Blue Leprechaun, she said, “Not yet. But they will.”
Still, a few yearn for the old bar’s raucous dance floor.
“I liked Touchdown’s much better,” said LSA junior Michael Dufek. “It was just more fun.”
Meinke said the bar’s name was an effort by the owners to combine the Irish pub theme with their love for Michigan sports.
“It just seemed kind of like a catchy way to bring it into the business,” he said.
—Daily News Editor Lisa Haidostian contributed to this report.